Naughty Girl and Come Dance With Me.
Bardot plays Brigitte Laurier, the daughter of the President of France. She has decided that she is madly in love with her father’s private secretary, Michel Legrand (Henri Vidal). Michel already has enough to worry about, with assorted mistresses including at least one who has tried to kill him. He is also ambitious and does not want to offend her other by playing footsies with his daughter.
Prince Charles is played by Charles Boyer, perhaps a little old at that time to be paired with Bardot (he was 58). But then Brigitte’s pursuit of the prince is supposed to be outrageous. It is fascinating to see Boyer, one of the great French male screen heart-throbs of an earlier era, teamed up with the greatest French female sex symbol of the 50s (and possibly the greatest French female sex symbol of all time).
As is the case with all of her movies of this period (and most of the movies of her career) this is almost entirely a star vehicle for Bardot. She is the reason you’re going to watch this movie and she is more than capable of carrying such a film on her own. She positively sparkles. She is astonishingly sexy, but in a playful and almost wholesome way. She gives the impression of being a woman who really enjoyed everything about being a woman.
This movie gets off to a bit of a slow start but once it builds up a head of steam it becomes a sheer delight. It’s a movie in which adultery is taken for granted and anyone could be sharing anyone else’s bed but it’s a kind of honest adultery. The characters have affairs but they don’t really hide them and (in contrast to real life) no-one actually gets hurt. This is the jet set lifestyle.
And Brigitte only wants to have an affair to make her husband love her. What she really wants is a proper marriage, which she doesn’t think she has.
This was 1957 so there’s no nudity and Bardot proves she didn’t need to get naked to be sexy.
This movie has been released on DVD but good luck finding it, especially a version with English subtitles. I caught it on cable TV. It’s a great pity because it’s one of Bardot’s best early films.
Une Parisienne is a frothy lightweight romantic sex comedy with Bardot at the top of her game, doing the sort of thing she did supremely well. What’s not to love? Highly recommended.
Sunday, March 29, 2020
Saturday, March 21, 2020
Donald Edwards (Michael Gough) has a beautiful and glamorous wife but Helene Edwards (Erika Remberg) is a film star and she’s off to Hollywood to make a movie. And she’s announced that she thinks they should have a trial separation. She also has a friend, a handsome barrister named Robert Vaughan (John Justin). Helene insists that there’s nothing in it although it’s pretty obvious that there’s quite a bit in it.
Donald was always a jealous husband and now he’s become just a little unhinged by all this. In fact he’s hired a hitman to resolve his marital difficulties for him.
Of course things don’t go off quite as expected. In fact they don’t go off as anybody expected.
The basic setup is as old as the hills but this one adds some genuinely neat and original twists (and there are quite a few of those twists). It even has some interesting character stuff.
And there’s some location shooting and even some action.
Erika Remberg does well as Helene, making her neither too sympathetic nor too unsympathetic. She probably has done her best to be a good wife but Donald Edwards would obviously be a difficult man to be married to.
Writer Lukas Heller had a much more illustrious career, having scripted a varied assortment of odd but interesting movies (The Killing of Sister George, the delightful tongue-in-cheek spy flick Hot Enough for June, The Dirty Dozen and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?). His screenplay for Candidate for Murder is extremely clever.
The black-and-white cinematography is very good and I liked the Edwards house - one of those split-level houses so popular in the early 60s.
This film is part of Network’s Edgar Wallace Mysteries Volume Three DVD boxed set. As usual the anamorphic transfer (all the Merton Park Edgar Wallace films were shot widescreen) is excellent.
Candidate for Murder is for my money one of the better entries in what is on the whole a pretty solid cycle of mystery thrillers. Highly recommended.
Friday, March 13, 2020
Jungle Girl is supposedly based on a novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Now Burroughs did indeed write a novel called Jungle Girl. And a very good novel it is too - you can read my review here. But there is absolutely no connection whatsoever between this novel and the Jungle Girl serial. Obviously Republic bought the rights to the book since the Edgar Rice Burroughs name would be a definite box-office asset and then proceeded to create their own story. Which doesn't matter. Jungle Girl is a fine novel, and the Jungle Girl serial is terrific as well. They’re just not related in any way.
Nyoka (Frances Gifford) does seem a little bit like a lady Tarzan. She travels through the jungle by swinging through the trees on vines, she rides elephants and she knows the jungle like the back of her hand. But Nyoka is not an orphan raised by apes. She lives in the depths of the West African rainforest in the unexplored region of the Simbula Swamps, in the territory of the Masamba tribe. She lives there with her father, Dr John Meredith. Many years earlier Dr Meredith saved the life of the chief of the Masamba and as a result he was made the tribe’s witch doctor or medicine man and he has spent the intervening years bringing the benefits of modern medicine to the Masamba.
There is a reason that Dr Meredith has chosen to remain deep in the jungle and and has chosen to raise his daughter Nyoka there. He has an evil twin brother named Bradley, a notorious criminal now serving a long prison sentence, and his self-imposed exile is his way of avoiding any contact with his brother, and avoiding the scandals associated with his brother. Nyoka is therefore, like Tarzan, caught between two worlds. She has picked up a western education from her father and she has picked up the lore of the jungle as well.
The key is the Lion Amulet, which is not only the badge of office of the current medicine man, it also allows across to the Caves of Nakros. That’s where the tribe keeps its treasure. And that treasure consists of an immense hoard of diamonds.
Slick Latimer and Bradley Meredith have their own plans to get hold of the Lion Amulet, with Bradley Meredith posing as his brother.
We also have a pretty cool villain in Slick Latimer, played by Gerald Mohr who positively drips with evilness.
It’s quite amusing that very few of the Masamba tribesmen look even slightly African. In fact I think the actors playing those parts cover just about every ethnicity except African. The Masamba chief is played by a Hawaiian while the evil witch doctor Shamba is played by a Syrian.
Daredevils of the Red Circle. And one cute touch is that in this serial it’s the heroine, not the hero, who wrassles crocodiles and lions barehanded. She gets captured a lot and has to be rescued, but Jack and his sidekick Curly also get captured a lot and Nyoka does her share of rescuing.
There’s also the obligatory cute kid, with an obligatory cute pet (a remarkably intelligent monkey).
With most serials you have to put up with at least one filler chapter made up of flashbacks from earlier chapters but that’s not the case here. There are also no real pacing problems - the action keeps moving along pretty nicely.
VCI’s DVD release is very pleasing. The transfers are very good. The earlier VHS releases of this serial have a very poor reputation (even by VHS standards) for image quality but there’s nothing to complain of here.
Jungle Girl is certainly a superior serial. It’s better acted than most, the jungle setting is utilised well, the cliffhangers are great and it’s generally very enjoyable viewing. Highly recommended.
Thursday, March 5, 2020
Tough but honest cop Sergeant “Whitey” Brandon (Richard Coogan) has been trying to break up a vice racket run by mobster Vince Malone (Brad Dexter). The reason he’s been having so much trouble (as the audience finds out right at the beginning) is that Malone has so many crooked cops on his payroll.
Malone is getting tired of the pressure from Brandon and he cooks up a plan to deal with the problem.
Carol’s job is to set Brandon up so he looks like a corrupt cop. The plan succeeds and Brandon is out of a job. But Brandon is not a guy who gives up. Now he’s on a one-man crusade against the vice racket and everyone associated with it, including corrupt cops. He just needs to find a weakness in Malone’s setup. He has one big advantage - this is a personal vendetta and he’s happy to risk his own skin if it’s necessary.
Brandon starts to make his moves in a dangerous game of bluff with Malone. Malone is a tough customer, tally untroubled by moral scruples. He does have a weakness however. He understands the rackets but he doesn’t understand women.
Mamie van Doren is in fine form. She’s hardbitten and sexy but as she often did van Doren manages to make her character believable. She wasn’t a great actress but she gives it her all and she dominates the movie.
Vice Raid belongs to an era in which movies like this tried desperately hard to be salacious but they had to pull their punches. They can’t actually tell us that Malone’s model agencies are fronts for prostitution (or that Carol is a prostitute) but they can make sure we figure it out. And perhaps surprisingly they do tell us outright when one of the female characters is raped (and while we only see the lead-up to the rape the woman’s obvious terror is quite harrowing).
Vice Raid is a routine B-movie potboiler but it has Mamie van Doren and she’s reason enough to see it. Recommended.
Wednesday, February 26, 2020
The story had been set in the past in a large house in Belgravia but in 1948 such houses with a multitude of servants were becoming a thing of the past. Reed decided that an embassy would be the closest modern equivalent so the movie is set in the French Embassy in London. The early stages of the movie follow the short story fairly closely but towards the end it diverges from the short story in a number of very significant ways.
One thing Phillipe is learning about life is that you have to keep secrets. You especially have to keep secrets from Mrs Baines. He is afraid of Mrs Baines. Everybody is afraid of Mrs Baines, and with good reason. Phillipe has his secrets. And he discovers that Baines has a secret too. It’s about his niece. At least he tells the boy that Julie (Michèle Morgan) is his niece.
At the point where you think the story has more or less reached its finale it’s actually only just getting into top gear. Now the twists kick in. The lies multiply. There are so many lies that when someone tells the truth it sounds like a lie, and when someone tells a lie it sounds like the truth. Now we’re well and truly in Greeneland, and if you’ve seen the later Graham Greene-Carol Reed collaborations The Third Man and Our Man in Havana you know how cleverly Greene can deal with a world of deception. Once you start telling lies you just have to keep going but there’s quite an art to keeping the lies straight.
What’s really interesting is that the lies are not told by bad people and they’re not really told for malicious purposes. Sometimes they’re told with the best of intentions. But they become a habit. Just as secrets are not necessarily a bad thing but they become a habit too. Lies and secrets can be a kindness, but they can be dangerous.
There’s some definite seriousness here but this is not Greeneland at its darkest. There’s some humour and there are even touches of genuine human warmth. One thing you need to bear in mind is that this was an early short story by a writer still learning his craft. When Greene wrote the screenplay for The Fallen Idol thirteen years later he was an established writer just about at the top of his game.
The Studiocanal Region 2 DVD offers a lovely transfer and quite a few extras. There are several other DVD and Blu-Ray releases.
The Fallen Idol is a quirky film. It’s part murder mystery, part suspense film and part psychological drama. Surprisingly perhaps it was a major box office success. This is a truly great movie, one of the classics of British cinema. Very highly recommended.
My review of the original short story can be found here at Vintage Pop Fictions.
Tuesday, February 18, 2020
A women’s body is found in the bushes at a resort hotel in Utah. The young woman apparently had a less than respectable reputation. The body is found by lawyer Dave Hewson (Lex Barker) and Beth Dixon (Anne Bancroft). The obvious suspect would be Edmund Parry (Ron Randell), the owner of the hotel and a man who thoroughly hated the dead girl (in fact he doesn’t seem overly fond of women in general). Parry is looked after by his devoted sister Julia (Marie Windsor). But Parry is completely paralysed so that pretty much eliminates him as a suspect. Fortunately (or from the sheriff’s point of view unfortunately) there are plenty of other suspects.
Apart from those mentioned above there’s a faded movie star, his blonde good time gal girlfriend Harriet (van Doren) and a local Lothario. I was pretty certain I knew what the solution was going to turn out to be but I admit I was totally wrong.
This was 1957 so while there are plenty of brutal murders the violence occurs off screen. The sexual content is obviously entirely implied as well but Mamie van Doren still manages to heat things up in her inimitable style.
All the performances are very good. The players are giving it everything they’ve got and there really aren’t any weak links among the cast. Ron Randell is the standout - he really is scary and creepy.
Location shooting was done at the Parry Lodge in Utah. It’s a great location which was used in countless movies and I believe it still exists.
The Girl in Black Stockings is a solid murder mystery with perhaps some very faint noir tinges. It’s content to be a B-movie, but it’s a good and very entertaining B-movie. Highly recommended even if Mamie van Doren doesn’t get anywhere near enough screen time.
Tuesday, February 11, 2020
Nina Foch plays Eileen Carr, a military nurse who has had a crack-up and has been honourably discharged as a result. She has disturbing dreams. So do lots of people. But Eileen’s dreams come true! She dreams about a man, a man she has never seen before, being attacked on a bridge. And the next day she meets the man. The man is Barry Malcolm (William Wright) and for both of them it’s love at first. And he does get attacked on a bridge, exactly as happened in the dream.
Barry Malcolm is a Federal Agent and he’s just been assigned to a vital mission, to deliver important papers to a contact in Hong Kong. The papers concern American plans to attack Japanese forces in China. First he has to collect the papers in San Francisco.
He’s told Eileen about the mission and she’s playing amateur spy with enthusiasm but with mixed results. She naturally manages to get herself captured by the Nazi spies.
It all turns out to be a very conventional by-the-numbers spy flick. Sadly the potentially really interesting angles, just as Eileen’s talent for precognition, are not developed. The story at least moves along at a good pace.
This was an early directorial effort by Budd Boetticher, later to gain fame as a director of westerns. This is very much a B-picture so he doesn’t get much opportunity to do anything clever but films like this were great training in getting on with a story without distracting the viewer with unnecessary padding.
While it’s been released as part of a film noir set this movie has absolutely zero claims to being a film noir. It’s just a routine spy story. It’s a pity because the story could have been a lot more interesting if there’d been time to flesh it out and explore Eileen’s psychological quirks. You have to wonder if perhaps the script was intending to do this but the demands of B-film production resulted in the more interesting bits of the story being eliminated - why introduce the dream stuff if you’re not going to explain what’s going on in her head?
This movie was also released individually on DVD in the Sony Choice Collection series but that edition might be hard to find now.
If you’re happy to accept it for what it is, a pure B-movie potboiler, then Escape in the Fog offers undemanding but reasonably satisfying entertainment. It’s worth a rental.